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What makes re-installing Windows painful is the waiting around for a few keystrokes and post-installation chores. Windows 8 installs in mere minutes, but you still have to accept the EULA, manually enter your 25 digit serial number, and apply Windows updates once the installation itself is completed. If you’re eager to optimize this process, here is a way to customize your Windows 8 installation.

Preparation

Before we start, you need a couple of ingredients to make this work:

The main tool you’ll be using is WinReducer, but it’s of no use until you prepared and installed all the other items. Note that WinReducer itself comes with ReadMe and HowTo PDF files, which cover WinReducer’s features and can be helpful when you get stuck.

Setting Up WinReducer 8.1

When you first launch WinReducer, it will most likely display an error message and point you to its configuration.

In the Configuration window, make sure all the software needed by WinReducer is detected. Click on the software name and point the tool towards the file’s location. Note that you need to point it to two different files in the case of 7zip; both are located in the program folder. When all is done, the Configuration should look like the screenshot below.

WinReducer 8 Configuration Complete

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WinReducer Overview

When you launch WinReducer after a successful configuration, you will be greeted by the proper Welcome screen.

WinReducer 8 Start Screen

Under Options, you can check for software updates, return to the Configuration window, and set your Windows theme.

The HowTo PDF reveals that an Easter egg is hidden in the Info page (available via Options) that apparently grants you access to a Lifetime VIP Edition. If you find the Easter egg, please share in the comments!

WinReducer Information Easter Egg

Under Start, you can open Windows 8.1 using an already extracted folder, extract an ISO file, and via Tools you can download Windows updates, create an ISO file or a bootable USB, and launch the Preset Editor.

Creating Your Custom Windows 8.1 ISO

Go to > Start > Tools > Updates, select the x86 (32-bit) or x64 (64-bit) Windows update package, depending on your version of Windows 8.1, click Update, and select the updates you would like to download.

Option 1: When this is done, close the window and go to > Start > ISO and select your Windows 8.1 ISO file to extract it, so it can be customized by WinReducer. This can take a moment.

WinReducer ISO Extraction

If you get an error message, like “You are trying to use an unsupported Windows 8.x Upgrade DVD“, you won’t be able to proceed. Try again, try another ISO file, or try another method.

Once your ISO file was extracted Extend The Life Of Your Optical Discs With ISO Backups & Virtual Clone Drive [Windows] Extend The Life Of Your Optical Discs With ISO Backups & Virtual Clone Drive [Windows] There is absolutely no reason why you would still want to routinely run games, movies, or music from optical discs. Inserting, ejecting, and switching discs is a nuisance and subjects both the drive and the... Read More , the Preset Editor should open automatically.

Option 2: Alternatively, you can copy Windows installation files from the original installation DVD to your computer, then to go > Start > Folder, select the folder that contains the extracted files, then click Mount. This will copy the files into the Extract folder and should launch you into the Preset Editor.

You can also open the Preset Editor manually. Go to > Start > Tools > Preset Editor and click Launch. Here you can customize Windows 8.1 to your heart’s desire. You can remove features and services, change the appearance, or set up your unattended installation.

WinReducer Preset Editor Menu

As the name suggests, WinReducer’s main objective is to make the installer and the resulting installation smaller. If you are going to create a DVD, don’t bother. You are more likely to regret removing a certain feature, than to appreciate the time you saved during the installation or the drive space you preserved. Rather focus on customizing your installation.

First, however, integrate the updates you downloaded earlier. Go to > System > Integration and point the tool to the respective download folder. You can do the same for drivers and .NET Framework.

To include and automate the installation of third party software, you could prepare an OEM folder and have WinReducer add it to your custom ISO. The option is available under > System > WinReducer Post Installation. The details of how to set this up, however, are beyond the scope of this article.

Don’t forget to set up the Unattended installation. Remember that if you add the serial number, the resulting ISO file will be set to your computer. Trying to use your custom Windows 8.1 installation disc on another computer would be a violation of the Windows license agreement and you would run into issues activating Windows.

WinReducer Preset Editor

 

When you are done, you can save this preset for future use on another ISO file. Go to Start and click Save. Here you can also Load a previously saved preset.

To apply a (preset) customization to your Windows installation ISO file, go to Finish and click Apply.

WinReducer Loading

WinReducer will direct you to the ISO File Creator, where you can save your custom Windows installation media as WIM or ISO file.

WinReducer ISO File Creator

Click Save and when the tool is done, you can pick up your ISO file in the respective folder.

Create A Bootable DVD

To turn your custom ISO file into installation media, you need to create a bootable DVD. Use a DVD burner tool ImgBurn - Easy & Free CD and DVD Burner App ImgBurn - Easy & Free CD and DVD Burner App Read More like ImgBurn to write your ISO file to a blank DVD. To avoid errors, be sure to burn the DVD at a very low write speed, like 2x. Check the verify option, so ImgBurn will double-check for burning errors. Finally, test your custom Windows 8.1 installation DVD.

Custom Installation To A Point & Alternative Solutions

WinReducer is great to create a custom Windows 8 installation. Unfortunately, you still need to download and install all your third party apps, as this process can not be embedded in WinReducer.

If a complete setup including third party applications is important and if we’re only talking about a single computer, you should prepare a perfect Windows installation and then create a system drive image How To Clone Your Hard Drive How To Clone Your Hard Drive Copy the entirety of one hard drive to another. It's called cloning, and it's an important process if you want to replace or upgrade the primary hard drive in your computer. Cloning isn't the same... Read More (aka copy or clone), which you can flash back when it’s time to re-install Windows. Alternatively, you could look into third party software that offers an unattended installation of the applications you need, for example Ninite. Or you could automate tasks How to Automate Mundane Tasks with AutoIt How to Automate Mundane Tasks with AutoIt Read More with AutoIt.

For deployment of Windows 8.1 to multiple computers, turn to Microsoft TechNet for instructions.

What do you think? Is a custom installation file with all the junk removed worth the trouble?

  1. T. S.
    June 10, 2014 at 3:38 pm

    Well... I have used this tool to minimize install and remove all the things I don't need. Tried to install into VM after that, however at the moment I had to enter product key it failed to validate it and I cannot continue installation, does anyone else faced similar problem and knows how to solve this?

    • Tina S
      June 12, 2014 at 4:09 pm

      This sounds like a question for MakeUseOf Answers. You're more likely to get a response there. Good luck!

    • PERCE NEIGE
      October 7, 2015 at 12:01 am

      It depends what you removed. I remember some settings that prevents to use the ISO in a VM if you remove them.

  2. Mikeal S
    February 10, 2014 at 8:20 am

    So I've got a Win8 ISO and later upgraded to W81. Will my final product be W8 or W81? I've just recently had to re-install EVERYTHING due to the fact that the geniuses in Redmond made it impossible to restore from my system image because the image was of my W81 system but the only installation media I have is W8. Brilliant, right?

  3. Andrew N
    February 5, 2014 at 12:48 am

    do these same programs and this process work for windows 7 ??? if not can that be the next article. :)

    • Tina S
      February 5, 2014 at 8:12 am

      Similar tools are available for Windows 7, also see the first comment above.

  4. Gordon
    February 3, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    What about Computers with Windows 8 already installed - no disc, just a (Lenovo) Restore - does your description also work then?

    • PERCE NEIGE
      October 7, 2015 at 12:03 am

      You have to download the ISO, or extract the ISO if you can. It works with an ISO.

  5. Devesh S
    February 1, 2014 at 5:03 am

    Installation time reducing trick.

  6. Partha S
    February 1, 2014 at 4:04 am

    I am not going to install windows 8 in near future.However for creating custom windows 7 step by step instructions will very useful for me.thanks

  7. John Sander
    February 1, 2014 at 1:10 am

    You said:
    (Running installation of Windows 8 or 8.1
    Option 1: Windows 8 or 8.1 ISO file (Unfortunately, the Windows 8.1 ISO file available from Microsoft does not seem to work.)
    Option 2: Copy the files from a Windows 8 or 8.1 installation disc to your computer.)

    Who has a CD or DVD of Win 8 or 8.1, its far toooo late to get one. I'm waiting for Win 10 and staying with Win 7 or I may move back to Apple OS X. Win 8 is on an old Win xp system side by side with my Win 7 system 1 KB, 1 Logitech Touchpad and a 25" HP and 50" TV.

  8. ericreed0564
    January 31, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    Win8 is trash. Run Linux Mint. It's free and it works.

    • r0manas
      March 17, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      Most software I use aren't supported by your MINT! (and don't work e.g. Adobe CC) And yes Ive tried wine workarounds, it isn't enough for smooth work.
      BTW comments like 'use virtual machine' or 'learn to use inkscape or other apps' are worthless, it's incomparable for all the time and effort spent learning and adapting since adobe 6 (not CS6). All the work is done instinctively and fast.
      So I'll switch to linux only when adobe will fully support it otherwise it isn't worth it.

    • Yasmani
      May 17, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      Linux mint is the best, except for adobe users!!!

  9. Brian fitz
    January 31, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Why the heck would I worry about reinstalling Windows 8, its sucks on a desktop that's not touch screen, and I actually I got setup to try it for a week on a touch screen monitor, after the second day I had to clean the monitor because it had so many finger prints on it I couldn't read my emails. By the 4th day my right forearm was starting to cramp up so I switched to swiping with my left hand.....oh boy, being right handed and trying to use my left hand to operate my computer was a joke. Kinda like trying to throw a baseball left handed...like a retard...
    On the 5th day I took the computer/monitor back and got my money back and went home and am happily using my Windows 7 Ultimate powered computer with my Microsoft Natural Multimedia keyboard ( ya know the ones with the split keys that's kinda humped in the middle and has 19 hot keys) plus a big fat 3 button, 2 scroll wheel, BelkinTrack Ball and a 27" monitor and life is guuuuuuud.
    Just a side note: How come Microsoft is already talking about coming out with Windows 9....makes ya wunder huh........................8 sucks for desktops that's why.

  10. Santhosh Kumar K
    January 31, 2014 at 5:29 am

    Does it work for OEM? Most of the laptops have a huge headache while installing it. OEM discs no longer come with 8.1 and we have to depend on these for it.

    • Tina S
      January 31, 2014 at 11:24 am

      You can run the tool on your OEM version of Windows, yes. However, you will need a Windows ISO file or a Windows 8 install CD to proceed.

  11. mika
    January 30, 2014 at 9:13 pm

    Can i offload my recovery partition to a cd?

  12. likefunbutnot
    January 30, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    This is a good idea and a workable process, though I'm not sure why you don't also mention the Windows ISO to USB boot tool.

    • Tina S
      January 31, 2014 at 11:22 am

      This is a completely different tool and it's for Windows 7.

    • likefunbutnot
      January 31, 2014 at 3:02 pm

      @Tina,

      Actually, it works with all Windows install .ISOs, XP SP3 and newer. Even user-created or modified ones. It also doesn't have an upper bound on size, so long as the .ISO you're writing will fit on the media you've selected.

      Try it for yourself if you don't believe me.

  13. Jahanzeb K
    January 30, 2014 at 2:38 pm

    Interesting!!!

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